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|The Mysterious Affair at Styles||Agatha Christie|
VI. The Inquest
|Page 6 of 8||
I fancy he breathed a sigh of relief when she complied.
Then came the sensation of the day. The Coroner called Albert Mace, chemist's assistant.
It was our agitated young man of the pale face. In answer to the Coroner's questions, he explained that he was a qualified pharmacist, but had only recently come to this particular shop, as the assistant formerly there had just been called up for the army.
These preliminaries completed, the Coroner proceeded to business.
"Mr. Mace, have you lately sold strychnine to any unauthorized person?"
"When was this?"
"Last Monday night."
"Monday? Not Tuesday?"
"No, sir, Monday, the 16th."
"Will you tell us to whom you sold it?"
You could have heard a pin drop.
"Yes, sir. It was to Mr. Inglethorp."
Every eye turned simultaneously to where Alfred Inglethorp was sitting, impassive and wooden. He started slightly, as the damning words fell from the young man's lips. I half thought he was going to rise from his chair, but he remained seated, although a remarkably well acted expression of astonishment rose on his face.
"You are sure of what you say?" asked the Coroner sternly.
"Quite sure, sir."
"Are you in the habit of selling strychnine indiscriminately over the counter?"
The wretched young man wilted visibly under the Coroner's frown.
"Oh, no, sir--of course not. But, seeing it was Mr. Inglethorp of the Hall, I thought there was no harm in it. He said it was to poison a dog."
Inwardly I sympathized. It was only human nature to endeavour to please "The Hall"--especially when it might result in custom being transferred from Coot's to the local establishment.
"Is it not customary for anyone purchasing poison to sign a book?"
"Yes, sir, Mr. Inglethorp did so."
"Have you got the book here?"
It was produced; and, with a few words of stern censure, the Coroner dismissed the wretched Mr. Mace.
Then, amidst a breathless silence, Alfred Inglethorp was called. Did he realize, I wondered, how closely the halter was being drawn around his neck?
The Coroner went straight to the point.
"On Monday evening last, did you purchase strychnine for the purpose of poisoning a dog?"
Inglethorp replied with perfect calmness:
"No, I did not. There is no dog at Styles, except an outdoor sheepdog, which is in perfect health."
"You deny absolutely having purchased strychnine from Albert Mace on Monday last?"
"Do you also deny *THIS?"
The Coroner handed him the register in which his signature was inscribed.
"Certainly I do. The hand-writing is quite different from mine. I will show you."
He took an old envelope out of his pocket, and wrote his name on it, handing it to the jury. It was certainly utterly dissimilar.
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